Golden Blessings

Golden Blessings

“I say a little prayer for you. Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart …” ~ I Say a Little Prayer For You, Aretha Frannklin

I have a buddha in a bubble! My children surprised me with a snow globe, and it’s home to a beautiful golden buddha. He sits inside in his peaceful womb, surrounded by sparkles as gold as he is.  

I’ve placed him on my vanity where I can see him every day. In the mornings, I pick him up, give him a good shake, and watch as the vanity lights illuminate the sparkles, while they spin around in a glittering dance to start the day. They swirl every which way and then gently descend, landing softly on his head and on his shoulders, in his hands and in his lap, around his seat and even on his feet.

The buddha is seated, just like I am at the end of my yoga practice.

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Hineni

Hineni

“Oh, we could be stars. We could be stars.” ~ Stars, Alessia Cara

The other morning, on the spur of the moment, I woke up and decided to go to yoga.

I hadn’t planned to make it out of bed so early, but I did, and apparently a lot of other people did, too. The class that morning was close to several workout spots, and, with the sun barely up, it was already rush hour on the block. I walked among the early birds, as we made our way to our various destinations, mine in the corner building on the floor at the very top. I climbed the staircase and checked in at the front desk.

“I’m Anne,” I said. “I’m here!”

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Surrender

Surrender

“Little darling, it’s been a long and lonely winter.” ~ James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma

We’re in the middle of what’s turned out to be one of the moodiest winters in my memory.

We’ve braced ourselves against some of the coldest temperatures in history and basked in temperatures warmer than they ever should be.

It’s as if Mother Nature were battling herself, hesitant to fully emerge into her own season, even though it’s one that’s already here. But that’s okay, because, in our own way, I think we’ve been doing the same.  

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Direction

Direction

Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me. ~ Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

We were on our mats in a twisting flow at yoga. We’d already twisted in one direction, flowed some more in another and were about to twist in the other. I bent my knees, lowered my hips and placed my hands in prayer at my heart. I readied myself ahead of the instructions and started twisting to the right.

“Twist to the right!” the instructor said.

The class balked. Having already twisted earlier in that direction, everyone had known to go left, except for me. That previous turn wasn’t even in my memory!

“I’m sorry!” the instructor said. “I was watching Anne!”

I’ve been plagued with a questionable sense of direction from the time I can remember. In fact, one of my first memories is that of being lost, back when my sister and I would walk together to Hebrew school.

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Prayer

Prayer

“I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go and help us to be wise in times when we don’t know.” ~ The Prayer, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

It’s Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish New Year. It’s the Day of Atonement, the day when we fast and ask G-d for his forgiveness for any and all of our sins. All day we pray to be entered into the Book of Life, and when the sun sets, the gate on this opportunity closes until this same time next year, when we get to pray for forgiveness again.

This year, the High Holiday has fallen on a Saturday. I wake up and brew some coffee and then mix up a green shake. I tend to faint when I fast, and so it’s been a while since I have. And with my children all grown up, I no longer belong to a synagogue. And so these days I opt to spend the high holidays at hot yoga, where I’m always able to find something spiritual in the sweat. Today I shower and sign up for class and leave the house with my hair still wet.

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Harmony

Harmony

“Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness, ease my troubles, that’s what you do.” ~ Have I Told You Lately, Van Morrison

“The presence of truth can make us feel naked, but compassion takes all our shame away.”

This is one of the many phrases of which I took note while reading Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar, the father of modern yoga. I took notes because I’ve been assigned homework for the first time in 30 years! I even had to hand in a one-page reflection paper by a certain date, typed and printed! I’ve signed up for yoga teacher training, and reading this book was my first assignment.

I’ve been surprised at how excited I am about the organized structure of the training. There’s a plan for everything over the next five months, and I find this very appealing, probably because it’s been a while since I’ve actually had any sort of plan. Over the past few years, my only plan has been to practice as much yoga as I can and then to see what happens next. I call this my no-plan plan, and so far I think it’s been working. The practice has been like a treasure map, and following it has brought me out into the world in a way that I wasn’t.  

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Compassion

Compassion

“Well this good I’ve found, I spent all this time tryna find my way here.” ~ This Feeling, Alabama Shakes

It’s almost dark, and I’m looking at the world from upside down.

I am dripping in a backbend in a room that’s heated to almost 100 degrees. Upside down in my arc, I look out the back windows and see people gliding by, taking footsteps on the sky. A little girl stops to wave. She wants to say hi.

This is the peak of the practice. We’ve finished all of the standing poses, and we’ve warmed up our backs on the mats. We’ve rounded our spines in Camel and Locust and Bow, and we’ve already done our first Bridge. And now the count is on for Wheel.

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Practice

Practice

Hey now, hey now. Don’t dream it’s over. ~ Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House

It’s cherry season.

I know this because beautiful bags of big white cherries have appeared, front and center, at all the markets, and for some reason this season I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I first noticed the cherries when I was visiting my son a few weeks ago. He had us over for brunch, and because I can’t ever show up anywhere empty-handed, I brought a cactus plant from the local market, along with a bag of cherries that I had noticed near the register. He set the cactus on the sill in the sun, and, when the eggs were done, we sat down to a feast with a bowl of cherries as our centerpiece.  

The next week I was visiting again, and more cherries appeared. This time they were waiting for me in my daughter’s refrigerator, a welcome sight when I arrived at midnight! I had a few before I went to bed and then again late the next night, when we sat down to a bowl of them in front of the television.

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Collision

Collision

“Got my doubts about it, oh but I try, oh make it work with tears in my eyes.” ~ Some Peace of Mind, Van Morrison

Cow Face is a funny name for a pose.


We cross our legs at the knees and press our sitting bones down on the mat. I’m not sure how this resembles a cow’s face, and I’ve never thought to ask.

Most of the English names for the yoga poses make sense to me. They have purpose: Chair pose. Side Angle. Handstand. They have power: Warrior One. Warrior Two. They have beauty: Half Moon. Crescent Lunge. 

But where is the grace in a name like Cow Face? 

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Rise

Rise

Come with me. Leave yesterday behind and take a giant step outside your mind.” ~ Take a Giant Step, The Monkees

It’s been a long day.

I arrive home from work and grab a quick bite and am about to go upstairs to my room in order to change into my yoga clothes for my evening practice.

But to leave the kitchen and get to the steps, I have to pass the most comfortable chair in the house. It’s big and soft and green, and it fits me perfectly. I often sit with my feet propped up on its matching hassock, or, more often, I sit sideways with my shoulders propped up on one side and my legs hanging over the other.

Needless to say, I don’t quite make it to the steps. I sit down in the chair instead and cover myself with a quilt, thinking I still have a few minutes to watch a little television.

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Balance

Balance

"There will be an answer. Let it be.”     ~ Let It Be, The Beatles

I’m on my way to yoga. It’s the middle of winter, but I’m dressed as if it were spring!

The temperatures outside are a little out of whack, and, aside from the politics of the day, it’s all anyone seems to be talking about. As a matter of fact, just as soon as the Obamas left town the weather seems to have gone upside down! With their departure came a major shift in the atmosphere, and ever since then the heavens above have been a reflection of the chaos down here.  

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Time

Time

This time last year doesn’t seem so long ago.

We were deep in the winter of mid-February, and I was wearing everything possible: my jacket and scarf, my ear wraps and gloves, my leg warmers and tall winter boots. I had arrived with my suitcase in tow at my daughter’s work show to help her manage some overflow. 

We worked all day and into the early evening, and then we made our way to meet her other half and my son for dinner.

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Thought

Thought

Well it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe ~ Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan

I started practicing yoga for my body, but I think it’s also been helping my brain.

I wish I had the kind of brain that didn’t think so much, but that’s a thought that’s hard to fathom. I’m jealous of the people who don’t know how to dwell.

At yoga there is no time to dwell, and that’s a good thing. On the mat there just is no room in my head for anything other than what the instructor has said. We are always moving, even when we are still, and if I'm not paying close attention, then I’ll find myself moving in the wrong direction.

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The Basement

The Basement

’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed. ~ The Monster, Eminem featuring Rihanna

I used to be afraid of the basement.

When I was little, we had a beautiful basement. Its paneled walls enclosed a living room, a toy room, game tables and even a grand piano. A sliding glass door opened onto a patio and into a big backyard.

As children during the day we’d happily play for hours down there, but at night it was a different story. I was convinced that Dracula and Frankenstein had set up home under the basement steps and in the back toy room, too. Inevitably, we’d leave something behind, and in the evenings I’d be sent to retrieve whatever it was. I remember many times peering fearfully down the stairs while building up my courage for a frantic dash down and back.

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Goodness

Goodness

I’ve had so much energy these days that I don’t know what to do with myself.

And so I’m doing what I know to do when I don’t know what to do. I’m practicing lots of yoga.

Each night I’m on my mat, trying to expend the energy that I’ve captured in my body. It’s not that I’m not happy to have it; it’s just that it needs someplace to go. Who knows how it got there, but I think it happens while I’m sleeping. I seem to wake up with it, sometimes even in the middle of the night!

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Agony

Agony

This is agony, but it’s still a thrill for me. ~ Agony, Paloma Faith

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

These are the words of the great poet and storyteller, Maya Angelou. I’m guessing she knew a thing or two about agony, because she spent her lifetime writing her stories.

By comparison, I’ve only spent about a moment of mine. And that’s because, before yoga, I didn’t even know I had any stories inside of me, much less any kind of agony.

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Tikkun

Tikkun

“I’m here, and I’m on the mend, my friend.” ~ On the Mend, Foo Fighters

For almost a year, I’d put off getting my elbow checked out. I was afraid that if I did, I’d be told to stop practicing yoga. But what had started out as a dull ache had turned into a sharp pain, and so I set up the appointment.

I was diagnosed with tennis elbow, which for me these days is writer’s elbow. Who knew that writing could hurt? But apparently I had some microscopic tears that only rest could heal.

Why I needed someone to tell me that part of me was hurt and needed rest, I really couldn’t say. But my plan to dismiss the ache hadn’t turned out so great. Of course I was glad for the X-ray and to know that nothing was broken. Still, it wasn’t lost on me that I’d ignored this signal from my body.

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Loss

Loss

“Limitless undying love, which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me, on and on, across the universe.” ~ Across the Universe, The Beatles

Last night at yoga we did a few stretches before we were called to the tops of our mats for the start of practice. Once there, the instructor asked us to set an intention.

I used to set an intention by making a wish, like a private prayer. But I’d struggle to come up with something quickly, and I couldn’t always get it done. So I started to simplify things, and now I just conjure up an image, usually one of someone I love, and then I wait to see what comes to mind.

Last night the image was my son, decked out for the swim portion of the New York City Triathlon. He was in his wet suit, wearing goggles and a bathing cap, mid-air in a feet-first jump into the Hudson River!

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Hunger

Hunger

“Bring all the lovers to the fold, ‘cause no one is gonna lose their soul.” ~ Love Is My Religion, Ziggy Marley

We’ve been studying the soul.

We’ve been reading books and taking classes and looking for one soul, in particular. He belonged to my daughter and left without warning, leaving us all at a loss. He was the one who fed her soul, so that she was never hungry, and now her plate is empty, and she has no appetite.

He was a loving young man who knew that his body could feed his soul. He was a runner and a biker who had completed marathons and bike races. He loved to dance and had just started practicing yoga. He often worked out with my son, and together they had talked about entering a triathlon.

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Space

Space

“I’ll rise up, in spite of the ache. I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” ~ Rise Up, Andra Day

My daughter had a tragic loss that's left a gaping space. And so I’m spending time beside her, as she struggles to find her place.

In yoga, I hear so much about space. We’re supposed to make space, clear space and even hold space. When I first started practicing, I didn’t understand. But soon the practice grabbed a hold of me, and, like a key, it opened up a space inside. And it’s in this space where all my incremental shifts take place.

My daughter’s world has shifted. She’s lost her love. Without warning, the man who was always there was suddenly nowhere. And even though she knows he’s gone, she can’t help but try to find him. She searches for him and yearns for him and wants to talk to him.

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